Prepare your supplies
Before bringing your rescue pet home, make sure you have all the supplies you need and place them accordingly. This will make their introduction to their new home smoother as they will know from the start where they will eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. For a rescue cat, you may want to invest in a scratching post as well. Cats scratch to leave their scent and mark their territory, so best if you take the initiative and save your furniture with a post. For a rescue dog, potty training should be one of the first things you do when you bring your rescue dog home. Introduce them to a “potty spot” and regularly bring them to the location so they can become house trained, and be consistent with your potty routine.
Assign them a safe space
A cat tree can give your rescue cat a sense of security. They enjoy high spaces and many cat trees come with scratching spots as well. For a rescue dog, make sure they have access to parts of your home where there will be people. Don’t isolate them in a basement or garage. By keeping them in a place with foot traffic they will become more comfortable with your family and integration will go much quicker. If you’ve decided to crate train your rescue dog, make sure the crate is a comforting area for them. You can reward them with a treat or toy whenever they voluntarily enter the crate and there are great online resources to help you teach your pet to love their crate.
Introduce your pets slowly
If you have other pets, make sure they meet each other in a controlled environment. If you already have a dog, make sure your rescue dog meets them outside your home on neutral territory and somewhere without food or toys, and preferably outdoors where the original dog will not feel as territorial. If possible, it is best to have a trusted friend or a certified trainer help you facilitate this introduction in case one of the dogs reacts negatively to the other. Take it slow and pay attention to body language as your two pups meet. If you have a cat and are bringing home a rescue dog, don’t introduce them right away. The scent will be enough for your rescue dog to know there is a feline there. When they are introduced, make sure your dog is on a leash to prevent any predatory instincts they may initially have towards the cat, and avoid chasing so that doesn’t become a set behavior between your cat and your dog.
Give them space
Give your pet time to acclimate to their new surroundings before you introduce them to strangers. Moving is stressful for humans and pets; we all need time to adapt and decompress. They will need time to adjust to their new home and family before they will be ready to meet anyone new. Some one-on-one time will also give you time to bond with your pet and get to know their personality. The #333 rule says: 3 days to decompress, 3 weeks to learn your routine, and 3 months to feel at home and safe, so following these will ensure your pets have space and time to acclimate to their surroundings.
Build a routine
Try to stick to the feeding schedule the shelter, or foster family, had your pet on. This will prevent accidents and keep a sense of familiarity in their lives. Checking with your vet about food portions, types, and times is also a good idea. After a while, if you must, you can begin to slowly change feeding schedules. If you plan on changing the type of food, do so slowly. A sudden change in diet can be harsh on your pet’s stomach.
Toys can be a great way for a rescue dog or cat to decompress and relieve stress during the transition to their new home. They will also be able to focus their anxiety on the toys rather than taking to a shoe or piece of furniture. This can also prevent them from developing separation anxiety since they will have something to “work on” while you’re out of the house. Food puzzles, toys you can fill with yummy treats and snuffle mats can keep your pets entertained and their mind stimulated.
Provide basic training
Training mostly pertains to dogs. Training can help your rescue dog feel a sense of structure and stability. Your relationship will also become stronger as trust is gained and your pet begins to understand how it is expected to behave. If you take classes with them, look for positive reinforcement classes as they are the most effective when training your pet. Dominance-based classes can put a strain on your relationship with your pet and will not be as successful.
Read body language
Initially, your rescue pet may be anxious and timid with all the new changes in its life. Learn to differentiate between when they would rather be alone and when they’re willing to interact with you. Forcing a relationship may stress them out during such a drastic change in their environment. Give them space. Building trust after the abandonment and neglect your pet has experienced will take repetition, consistency, time, and most of all: unconditional love and a little patience.